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Sunday, November 02, 2014

Diouf’s arrival imminent

New Sabah Times
EL HADJI DIOUF … is almost certain of donning Sabah colours in the Premier League challenge next season
KOTA KINABALU: Finally it is good news for local football fans. Former Liverpool FC forward El Hadji Diouf is almost certain of donning Sabah colours in the Premier League challenge next season. The two-time African Footballer of the Year winner is expected to arrive here on November 10.

 Revealing this on Friday, Sabah FA’s newly appointed general manager Irishman George O’ Callaghan said Diouf, 33, will be here together with his agent Clive Clarke to seal his deal with the Sabah Football Association. Diouf will become the only second big name Sabah FA has ever signed after the late former England international and Arsenal man David Rocastle, who donned Sabah colours in the late 90s. A free agent, the Senegalese will come with a wealth of experience having had spells in the English Premier League with numerous teams. Liverpool, Bolton, Sunderland and Blackburn are among them with Leeds United being his last club.

 Callaghan also revealed the imminent arrival of Brazilian Tales Ricarte Dos Santos. The 197m-tall defender, 30, is scheduled to be here on November 19. Santos played for Phuket FC this season joining from DPMM FC where he featured for the Brunei club-side for two seasons (2012/2013) in the S-League. And Callaghan said the remaining two slots for foreign players are still open, and that they will be looking at every option.

 “We have Andre, who will be here for another season, and we have spoken to him, but he looks good in training, so we are not going make any rushed decision. “Datuk Seri TC Goh has been investing a lot of money to improve the Sabah team, so I have to get my results for him, so I will not rush in making my decision,” said Callaghan. On the team’s preparations, he said: “I think we have come together nicely … it has been a tough month, but it is kind of just to get to know everybody. I’m alone on the road really here, but I really feel that the last 10 days, we have made a lot of progress on the local players.”

 “We are not in a big rush, and I think and hope that we will have the full team when we do our pre-season in Peninsular Malaysia in December. According to him, he was here early to prepare for the imminent arrival of the import players. “Diouf is 99 per cent coming here and so I need to make sure that the facilities are alright and although we do not have a training ground for a while, but this is the job I’m doing now … to put that all in place so when the imports come here they will be impressed with Sabah.

 “You know … they are used to the professional set up and we are not professional yet, it could give a negative impact so I need to make sure everything is in perfect condition. To be fair with the club, they are working really hard and trying to get to where we want to go. Commenting on the local players, he said that the likes of Alto (Linus), Leopold (Alfonso Otong) as well as juniors Jenius Karib and Azizan (Nordin) have been impressive in the last few weeks. “They have all excelled in the last few weeks, and I think they have gone up 10 to 15 per cent since I came here.

They do need a lot of work on their fitness, but we have nine weeks to get that fixed, and I have a fitness coach coming from the UK soon, so they will be going to be working hard. Maybe, as soon as November 19, it will be hard work for everybody,” he said. On the coaching staff, Callaghan said that the likes of current coaches such as Justin Ganai, Burhan Ajui and goalkeeper coach Francis, will be with the team next season.

 “My main priority is to be in Sabah for the long term, but I really feel and I hope Bob (Burhan) can fit my shoes one of these days and fill my spot. He has the potential and I think that is the thing for Sabah. We need to give it back to the Sabah people and let the Sabah boys take control. “Hopefully, we can work closely together and as a unit. That is what I want to create … the whole club from top to bottom working together as a unit. To a question, he also revealed that they are looking at several players from Peninsular Malaysia.

 “A lot of players have been tied up already, but we have a few targets from Kedah, Perak and Perlis, and we will be looking at every option in the next few weeks,” he said. On Friday, two players from Perak, were seen training with the team, but both are unlikely to make the cut.

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